June 21, 2021

Covid and Travel: Why an Estimated 100,000 Americans Abroad Face Passport Problems

“It’s a real mess,” said Jennifer Minear, an immigration attorney and the president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “It’s a giant, multilayered onion of a problem and the reduction of staff as a result of Covid at the consular posts has really thrown the State Department for a loop.”

Michael Wildes, the managing partner of the law firm Wildes Weinberg, P.C., which specializes in immigration law, estimates that the number of stranded Americans abroad is in the hundreds of thousands.

“Our offices have been inundated,” he said. “We’ve been getting at least 1,200 calls a week on this, which is about 50 percent more than last year. The problem is more robust than people realize, and this isn’t how a 21st-century society should work.”

In Israel alone, the U.S. Embassy has a passport backlog of 15,000 applications, according to The Jerusalem Post. American Citizens Abroad, an advocacy organization for U.S. expats, sent an official request to the State Department in October 2020 to prioritize Americans’ access to consular services abroad, “but people are still experiencing delays,” said the organization’s executive director, Marylouise Serrato.

In Mexico, which is believed to have more American expats than any other country, a recent search on the appointment database for the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City showed zero available appointments for passport services, even with emergency circumstances (appointments from July onward have not yet been released).

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/06/travel/covid-travel.html

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